Religion and progressive activism concerning gender and sexuality in Africa

Adriaan van Klinken (University of Leeds)
Lee-Shae Salma Scharnick-Udemans (University of the Western Cape)
Sarojini Nadar (University of the Western Cape)
Chrystal McMillan, Seminar Room 4
Thursday 13 June, 16:15-18:00

Short abstract:

This panel explores the role of religious thought, practice, language and symbol in socio-political activism concerned with "progressive" causes in African contexts, especially concerning gender and sexuality. Papers explore different approaches, such as media, ethics, queer studies and pedagogy.

Long abstract:

Although religious institutions and movements frequently present themselves as "a-political" and appear to maintain the status quo, religious thought and practice are arguably also part and parcel of the processes of, and mobilisations towards, social and political change in African societies, both historically and today. Similarly, while social and political formations and movements often distance and dismiss themselves (both implicitly and explicitly) from religious association in discourse and practice, they appear to mirror religiously inspired iterations of myth, ritual, and symbol. This panel explores the role of religion in social and political activism concerned with "progressive" causes, especially concerning gender and sexuality. We specifically welcome papers that provide historical and/or ethnographic insight into the significance of religious thought and practice for, and as part of, activist movements and mobilisations around such causes across the continent, and that critically reflect upon the analytical and conceptual meanings, limitations, and complexity of "progressive" religion (or alternative terms, such as left, liberal, liberationist, prophetic, or social-justice oriented). How can the "progressive" nature of both religion and activism be examined in a meaningful way, when the meaning of the word itself is not self-evident, and when progressive religion and politics often are ambiguous and complex? Is the distinction between different dimensions of "progressive religion" (progressive action, progressive values, progressive identities, and progressive theology) as by Faust, Braunstein and Williams (2017, 9) a useful framework for the understanding of religion and socio-political activism in Africa, or are alternative frames of analysis required?